Australian Open: could the organization of the Grand Slam be impacted by the Omicron variant?
The organization of next year’s Australian Open could be at risk after Australia suspended the reopening of its borders to some foreign nationals amid fears over the new Omicron Covid variant.
Originally, the country was to allow the entry of skilled and skilled migrants and international students from December 1.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison stressed that it was “necessary” to delay the reopening for two weeks after the discovery of Omicron, in order to assess the impact of the variant and “the effectiveness of the vaccine”.
Australia has some of the toughest border policies in the world and has barred people from leaving the country until November of this year.
The country has so far found five Omicron infections among travelers, which has led to the implementation of “exceptional measures” for “safety reasons”.
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With Australia’s borders still not reopened, the future of the first Grand Slam of 2022 is now uncertain.
The main draw of the tournament is due to start on January 17, but qualification for the tournament must take place beforehand. Additionally, the majority of players would normally choose to compete in warm-up tournaments across Australia in preparation for the major tournament.
While players may well make it to Australia on time if the borders reopen in two weeks, any further delays could start to impact player arrivals.
Tennis players may be granted exemptions and be allowed to enter the country to participate in the tournament if they self-quarantine upon arrival.
This was the case last year, when all players were forced to complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine at a Melbourne hotel.
The men’s and women’s qualifying matches were played in Doha and Dubai respectively and the junior and legends matches were not played at all.
If some players are forced to quarantine themselves upon arrival, it would give a significant advantage to those who are not required to.
Women’s number one Ashleigh Barty is already in Australia and has chosen to miss the final Tour finals to focus on preparing for next year.
But whether or not players are forced into quarantine, all must be fully vaccinated to have a chance of being allowed to participate in the 2022 event.
For this reason, reigning men’s champion Novak Djokovic is unlikely to enter the competition unless these rules are relaxed.
Djokovic has often refused to disclose his vaccination status and his father has told Serbian television that he “probably would not perform” “under these conditions and blackmail”.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tilley said 85% of professional players are vaccinated and expects that number to be closer to 95% by the time of the event.
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